Menuwatch: The Box Tree

26 February 2014 by
Menuwatch: The Box Tree

The Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, boasts a rich culinary heritage spanning more than 50 years, and new head chef Lawrence Yates is determined to keep it going. Janie Manzoori-Stamford pays a visit

Taking over as head chef of a restaurant with a history as rich as that of the Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, is not for the faint-hearted.

It was originally opened as a tea room in 1962 by Malcolm Reid and Colin Long, before finding its feet as a fine-dining restaurant that went on to win two Michelin stars in 1977. Two years later a fresh-faced, 17-year-old Marco Pierre White cut his culinary teeth in its kitchens and came on board as a partner in 2010.

When chef Simon Gueller and his wife Rena took over the restaurant in 2004 they picked up a Michelin star in five months and have held on to it ever since.

The day-to-day running of the restaurant was last year handed to Lawrence Yates, a head chef whose own pedigree includes the Vineyard at Stockcross under John Campbell, Whatley Manor with Martin Burge, and Mark Poynton's Alimentum.

"I'm interested in putting food on a plate, not deconstructing it. I hate that word," says Yates. "It works for some people, and that's fantastic, but if I'm going to serve a millefeuille, it's going to be a millefeuille. Not strips of pastry, ice-cream, a bit of powder and some jelly. That's not my idea of cooking and it's not Simon's - it doesn't suit the Box Tree."

That's not to say Yates is averse 
to using modern techniques. Beef fillet served with pomme purée, slow cooked and roasted diced celeriac, chanterelles, red wine sauce and accompanied by a 
copper pan of braised beef cheek, is cooked in a water bath, but it looks like it has been traditionally roasted.

Yates explains: "I tie the beef so that it looks like it's been cooked old school. It's a lot of work so most people don't bother, but while ours looks like it will be well done on the outside it's medium rare all the way through it."

Offering a menu du jour (£30/£40 for three courses and amuse bouche for lunch/dinner), a la carte and menu gourmande (six courses for £70; sommelier Didier Da Costa's wine choice £27.50), the Box Tree serves lunch Friday to Sunday and dinner Tuesday to Saturday.

One of the best-selling dishes at the Box Tree is vegetarian. The starter consists of two poached quail's eggs wrapped in potato spaghetti and deep fried, served with roasted shallot and a caramelised onion sauce.

"I've started to use Minus 8 vinegar to deglaze the pan and make the sauce because the taste of the vinegar is absolutely mind-blowing," says Yates. "At £22 for a 200ml bottle, I couldn't afford to use it in a dish like the beef, but I can afford to splash out on a vegetarian dish."

With the dessert menu, Yates aims to ensure there is always something on there that his diners will want by offering a spectrum of flavours and textures.

Prune and Armagnac soufflé with rum ice-cream is available for those who want something light but full of flavour, while chocolate lovers can choose from a white chocolate parfait with macadamia nuts, coconut ice-cream, mango and Malibu, or a chocolate brownie cake.

Yates adds: "You don't just come here to eat, you come for an experience. It's important to us to keep it that way."

The Box Tree, 35-37 Church Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire LS29 9DR


Sample dishes from the a la carte menu

£60 for three courses and amuse bouche


Grilled & tartare of mackerel, pickled cucumber, radish, lemon dressing

Seared hand-dived 
sea scallops, pumpkin 
purée, ragoÁ»t of wild mushrooms

Glazed veal sweetbreads, Madeira & truffle jus

Main courses

Line-caught sea bass, roast Jerusalem artichoke, leek purée, confit tomato

Tranche of wild turbot, truffled white beans, cauliflower, iceberg & garlic sauce

Fillet of organic pork, boudin noir, confit belly, pommes Anna, creamed cabbage 
and morels


White chocolate parfait, macadamia nuts, coconut ice-cream, mango & Malibu

Dark chocolate brownie cake, pistachio & pineapple

Fuilletine of Yorkshire rhubarb, basil panna cotta

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